The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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President Joe Biden speaks on Friday at Carnegie Mellon University’s Mill 19 to tout his administration’s investment in infrastructure.
President Biden set to visit Pittsburgh this afternoon
By Brian Sherry, Contributing Editor • April 17, 2024
SGB hosts last meeting of the school year 
By Emma Hannan, Staff Writer  • April 17, 2024
Satire | A better use for editorial space
By Anna Ehlers, Contributing Editor • April 17, 2024

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President Joe Biden speaks on Friday at Carnegie Mellon University’s Mill 19 to tout his administration’s investment in infrastructure.
President Biden set to visit Pittsburgh this afternoon
By Brian Sherry, Contributing Editor • April 17, 2024
SGB hosts last meeting of the school year 
By Emma Hannan, Staff Writer  • April 17, 2024
Satire | A better use for editorial space
By Anna Ehlers, Contributing Editor • April 17, 2024

Former IDF soldier Yadin Gellman speaks at Hillel JUC, students protest outside

Yadin+Gellman%2C+an+IDF+veteran+and+Israeli+actor%2C+responds+to+questions+from+students+in+the+Hillel+JUC+building+on+Wednesday+afternoon.+
Alex Jurkuta | Staff Photographer
Yadin Gellman, an IDF veteran and Israeli actor, responds to questions from students in the Hillel JUC building on Wednesday afternoon.

Pitt’s Student Coalition for Israel hosted Yadin Gellman, a former Israel Defense Force soldier and Israeli actor, at the Hillel Jewish University Center on Wednesday evening for a crowd of 50 people. Just outside the speaker event, students and community members protested Gellman’s presence in Oakland by chanting “free, free Palestine.” 

Gellman, who was called into service from the IDF reserves on Oct. 7, visited Pittsburgh as one of many stops on his tour of the United States. At the event, Gellman discussed his life and time in the IDF and recalled the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, which resulted in the death of around 1,200 civilians, with about 240 Israelis taken hostage to Gaza. 

Gellman’s presence was met by a crowd of about 200 protesters who marched from outside the Cathedral of Learning to Hillel’s building on Forbes Avenue before the event began. According to one of the speakers, Students for Justice in Palestine organized the protest to draw attention to the IDF’s role in Palestinian civilian deaths, especially the Israeli response to October 7. 

In the wake of Hamas’ initial attack, Israel’s retaliation strikes and military operation on Gaza has killed over 25,000 Palestinians and displaced 1.9 million Gazans. Widespread protests have taken place across the globe, especially on college campuses, by those in support of Palestinians who have called for an immediate ceasefire. Many protests have also shown support for Israel and highlighted the situation of the Israeli hostages, many of whom are still in captivity.

Protesters block Forbes Avenue outside of the Hillel JUC building in response to the Yadin Gellman event on Wednesday. (Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor)

Many participants at the protest criticized the University for allegedly allowing Gellman to speak, but spokesperson Jared Stonesifer clarified that because Hillel is a private organization with private property off campus, the University’s guidelines for events did not apply.

Gellman spent the majority of the event walking the audience through what he experienced on Oct. 7, including how he was shot in the chest multiple times and lost his combat partner from gunshot wounds. He also discussed what he’s done since the attack, including different visits to university campuses in the United States and a presentation in front of U.S. government officials.

Ben Zarom, a senior computer science major, attended the event and said it felt important to hear Gellman speak because of the wide array of narratives that are put into the world regarding the conflict.

“To have a speaker like this on campus to talk to Jews, to talk to Israelis, to talk to anyone who wants to listen, it helps to bring much more balance to a narrative,” Zarom said. “It’s much more nuanced than that, and it’s much more educational.”

At the protest, another speaker touched on her family’s Palestinian background and lamented fellow students for attending Hillel’s event. 

“It is so unfortunate that we’re witnessing students just like us listen to a person that belongs to the entity that caused the killing of my cousin, right now as we’re here,” she said. “It is so unfortunate that we must defend ourselves or use terminology or tiptoe around words trying to justify why people like [my cousin] shouldn’t die. Students like us should be able to speak up about things like this.” 

Yadin Gellman, an IDF veteran and Israeli actor, speaks to students in the Hillel JUC building on Wednesday afternoon. (Alex Jurkuta | Staff Photographer)

When asked about the Palestinian civilian deaths that have continued to increase since Oct. 7, Gellman told The Pitt News that he doesn’t “think that there could be war without casualties.” 

“Of course, casualties, civilian casualties, are a terrible thing that nobody wants to see,” Gellman said. “Sadly, we were pulled into this war. We were forced to enter a war, and we decided that this can never happen again. I think Hamas should have thought twice before they entered this war, because they knew this was what was going to happen.” 

Gellman also addressed the protesters outside, saying he could understand why they were protesting.

“These people believe in the cause that they’re fighting for, which is an amazing and beautiful thing, and people should care about what’s happening in the world,” Gellman said. “But people also need to understand what they’re fighting for. I have no problem with somebody being pro-Palestinian and protesting in front of me, as long as he knows what he’s talking about.”

Protesters gather outside the entrance to the Hillel JUC building in response to the Yadin Gellman event on Wednesday. (Alex Jurkuta | Staff Photographer)

The event and protest come after mounting accusations of Israeli genocide against Palestinians, which speakers at both Gellman’s event and the protest touched on. Gellman denied such claims and emphasized that Israel had to respond to Hamas after the attack.

“We, as Palestinians, as Arabs, as non-Arabs, as humans, we stand with humanity,” a speaker at the protest said. “That’s why we’re here today, to tell these cowards that invited a war criminal who participated in the genocide of Palestinans, participated [in] the IOF [Israeli Ocupation Force], that we don’t stand for that.” 

A day after the event on Jan. 25, Hillel JUC released a statement on Instagram in response to the protests outside of the building.

“Protesters gathered on Pitt’s campus, assembled in front of the Hillel JUC building, shouted for the erasure of the Jewish state, physically intimidated students who wanted to attend the event inside the building, and blocked Oakland traffic for over an hour,” the statement said. “We will not be intimidated or deterred from fulfilling our mission of engaging every Jewish student so they may be inspired to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel.” 

The protesters outside dispersed about an hour into Gellman’s talk, and the event ended with a question and answer session between attendees and Gellman.

About the Contributor
Ryleigh Lord, News Editor
Ryleigh Lord is the head news editor at The Pitt News. She is a junior history and English writing major with an Irish minor. She also contributes to the culture desk, mostly to talk about the shows and movies she loves. In her free time, she's usually cheering on Arsenal WFC despite their best efforts to break her spirit. You can contact her at [email protected]